by Haley at gracefulandfree.com

Oh, what a year it has been. I think we all can safely agree that as each new year passes, we are tested, challenged, and left feeling weary by the end of the year. Emotionally, physically, mentally weary. And despite all the big feelings that we have by the end of the year, at the same time there is expectant hope and anticipation. A shared eagerness for what can potentially come in the future. Which is exactly why so many of us are always looking ahead regarding how to best plan ahead for the new year!

With the new beginnings that a new year brings, also comes the excitement that things will get better. No matter all the hard and challenge the past year may have brought. It is safe to say that regardless of the past year, celebrating the new year is a celebration that we can all anticipate. And in order to help us get there mentally and emotionally, I am sharing FIVE things you can be doing right now to plan ahead for the new year! Five specific things to help ensure that you are ready to live your best life at the start of a new year. Specifically, 5 things to help ensure that the next year is in fact your best year yet!

Nothing makes my heart happier than planning ahead for the new year. I love creating a new to-do list, reflecting on new year’s resolutions, building my vision board, and dreaming of which new habits will help me achieve the very things I am after in the new year. Truthfully, the very best way to plan ahead for the next year is to actually prioritize moments of reflection and dreaming.

Personally, a great way to do all this reflecting is to sit down and work through your own paper planner. I hope I am not the only one who spends too much time picking out her planner for a new year. This is pivotal for success for the new year. And to help me plan ahead fully, I am always looking to my very own paper planner and journals.

There is something about a notebook full of blank pages, open spaces and a whole lot of life left to live freely that truly excites me and inspires me. Blank pages ready to be filled with new ideas and big goals to help set you up for success all year long. Therefore, in order to fully prepare yourself and get ready for the start of a near year, grab your own calendar, favorite journal, and paper planner and let’s get ready to go!

Now, a guide on how to properly plan ahead for the next year would be completely incomplete without my favorite supply of planners and journals. Therefore, here are my current favorites to work through and dream big with. Of course, these are affiliate links, to which I do make a tiny commission from if you choose to purchase through my links, to which I am incredibly grateful for! Be sure to have your supply of paper products ready to support you and your big goals at the start of the year.


The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect on the last year. Now is the best time to sit and reflect on all the life lived since January 1st. Now is the ideal time to focus on goal setting, and establishing specific goals to help support you and the life you dream of living in the upcoming year. It’s in the last few weeks and months of the year that is the best time to start your new year planning. Now, is the perfect time to dream and cast visions for the true desires of your heart for the next year.

Take a moment and envision the you that you want to be for the next year. Think through the different areas of your life and dream of what kind of personal growth you hope to achieve in the new year. What are some bucket list items you want to accomplish? Additionally, what are some small changes you could easily make within your daily routines that will produce the biggest of results? Furthermore, what are some good habits that are worth setting up to help push you towards the right direction in reaching your goals and chasing your dreams.

Take these five steps as the foundation to building the year off your dreams. Let go of what didn’t work the previous year, and look ahead with eager anticipation and hope that this next year will be your best year!



The first step to planning ahead for the new year is to focus on one specific word. One of the best things you can be doing NOW to go ahead and plan ahead for a happy new year is to start focusing in on one specific word. Search your heart, dive through your soul, search the indexes of your mind and settle in on one word that makes your heart come ALIVE. What is a word that you want to speak to your dreams this year? Take plenty of time too deeply reflect on the word of choice for this next year.

The last few years, I have always chosen a word instead of a new year resolution and I just love the entire intent behind focusing in on simple, single words to define a year. My word for last year was wonder. And I explain more about why I choose that word and exactly what it means here! Therefore, a great way for new year planning to properly plan ahead for the next year is to focus in on one specific word.


Second on the list of preparing your heart, mind, and soul for the next year is to cultivate your top three. The most important thing you can do when setting new goals and building your new year’s resolution is to focus in on the three areas of your heart that you want to focus on cultivating for the next year. Do you want to focus on quiet time, rest, intentionality, or maybe even community? Or how about consistency?

Focus in on your desires and dreams and carve out three specific areas to focus on and cultivate a pattern for. Once you have your top three, think of specific goals that are connected to those three items. I encourage you to work through your planner and create spaces each week and month to check in on your top three. This is such a great way to be set up for success all year long! Therefore, the second step to planning ahead for the next year is to cultivate your top three!


Next on the list to properly plan ahead for the new year is to take specific note of the big moments. Have an anniversary, or a special memory you want to recollect and connect to? Go through your planner and journal in special moments and dates so you pre-plan all the reasons to celebrate and smile big throughout the year. Include birthdays, anniversaries, personal milestones, and the changing of seasons.

I have the best memories of sitting at the kitchen table with my dad growing up on New Year’s Eve as he reflected in his personal journal of all that happened within the past year. He would go around the entire kitchen table and ask us about our favorite memories and most proud accomplishments. He would write all down and has them in a special place to be able to look back on and reflect years later.

This task may seem small and insignificant, yet it has the potential to fuel desire and passion of the heart as you plan ahead in a celebratory spirit. Believe me, we all need to focus on the things to celebrate a little more. It’s when we focus on the moments of celebration, that additional joy is born. Therefore take the time to celebrate your hard work, appreciate the small moments, the big moments and all the blessings in between. This is essential to your new year planning.


The next best way to properly plan ahead for the new year is to take time to reflect on the past. Before we can move ahead, we have to sit and work through the past. What better time to do that as we make our plans for the next year?

I believe that in order to fully prepare for the things to come, we have to work through the struggles and sore spots of the past. I would encourage you before the start of the next year, to journal and reflect. Think through the entire year and take note on your areas of strength, moments of weakness, and all the elements of surprise and humanity in between.

As you reflect on the past, is there any area for improvement? What are potential bad habits that you find necessary to let go of before moving into a fresh start of a brand new year? Is there a better way to do something within your own daily routine and weekly schedule? And allow this time of reflection to be a moment for growth. Please, don’t allow yourself to sit in agony over the things that did or didn’t happen. Instead, learn from your moments of struggle and build on them for the next year. Therefore, in order to plan ahead for a successful new year, it is absolutely essential to reflect on the past.


Finally, the fifth way to properly plan ahead for the new year is to dream for the future.  One of the most exciting parts of looking ahead to a new year is dreaming big for the future. Spend time creating your vision board. Think through the dreams and the desires of your heart. Now is a great time to really process through the many different areas of your life and set goals for the changes that you hope to make.

I love to take my planner for the new year and write down specific dreams and visions all throughout the pages. NOW, in the last few months of the year, is the best time to focus on setting yourself up for success and building that rock solid foundation for the new year. Allowing yourself to truly dream and believe in your future year. Think through what new year goals that you hope to accomplish? Where do you want your heart to be? How do you want to feel? What types of memories do you want to create? Build a vision in your heart and mind and write that in all throughout the year.


It is absolutely possible for you to plan ahead in confidence for the new year. Quick review of the major five steps for your new. year planning:

  1. Focus on one word
  2. Cultivate your top three
  3. Take note of the big moments
  4. Reflect on the past
  5. Dream for the future

So excited for everything that you are going to accomplish in the last few weeks of the year. I know without a doubt that there are very big things in store for you in the new year!

Looking for more inspiration on how to spend time planning ahead for the New Year? Sharing FIVE more things for you to to be prepared to say hello to a new year!

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